MEMPHIS, TN - Planning for our children's future or a waste of time and taxpayer money? The Shelby County Commission is trying to put its stamp on the school consolidation process. With lawsuits and litigation surrounding the merger, should commissioners be focusing on other issues? The Commission debated for hours. They discussed everything from lawyers to redrawing school board districts, but does any of it count?
“I use the word crazy a lot because I think a lot of the stuff we do down here is crazy,” said Commissioner Terry Roland. “Absolutely crazy, no common sense, no thought process.”
School consolidation has dominated discussion at Shelby County Commission ever since the Memphis City School Board's vote to surrender the charter. Wednesday, the Commission decided there would be a 25 member school board to handle the transition.
“We are going forward in that direction of being ready to appoint interim school board members if the referendum is a yes vote,” said Commissioner Steve Mulroy.
They're also re-drawing the districts. The plan discussed in committee keeps all of the current districts separate, meaning no one on either school board, Memphis or Shelby County would have to compete with a sitting board member for a spot. Commissioners said they would likely appoint all sitting Shelby County Board Members, but that may not be the case for Memphis City School Board Members.
“They are not guaranteed a position on the interim unified school board that's going to be set up by appointment, but they're certainly eligible to apply like everybody else,” said Mulroy.
All these details, at least one commissioner calls a complete waste of time. Terry Roland says new legislation negates all this.
“I think it's a total waste of time, a total waste of money,” said Roland. “There's going to be probably no less than nine lawsuits that are filed. I think the body that I'm on is seeking, I think they're going out looking for a fight.”
A fight Commissioner Roland wants no part in.
“So nobody needs to come to me and ask me to vote for them to be on one of these new school districts,” said Roland. “I think it's wrong. It's going to be challenged. There's no way that this thing is probably going to go through, so it's a total waste of time.”
Despite Commissioner Roland's protests, the commission voted in favor of the 25 member school board. It won't be final until Monday's full commission meeting. If the referendum passes on March 8th, applications for the new school board are due March 15th.
The school district lines were based on census data from 2000. Mulroy says the districts will have to be tweaked later on. Roland says he believes drawing lines with the old data is illegal.